Southern California AD Pat Haden is reportedly nearing the end of his search for a new football coach. Interim coach (and former Ole Miss coach) Ed Orgeron is no longer in the running for the Trojans’ full-time gig. Boise State’s Chris Petersen has pulled his name out of the hat, as usual.
That leaves three candidates that we know of: Washington’s Steve Sarkisian (already interviewed), Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio (already interviewed), and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.
Sarkisian is a former Trojan assistant. Del Rio is a former USC player. Franklin is the wild card.
From the coach’s perspective, it would be almost impossible to turn down one of the five best coaching jobs in the country to remain at Vanderbilt. Yes, the school — like Southern Cal — is private and can toss plenty of cash around. But Franklin has already worked miracles in Nashville. He’s led the school to three straight bowl games for the first time ever and he’s won eight games in back-to-back years (with a chance to win nine in back-to-back seasons). That’s not been done at Vandy since the 1920s.
Plus, Franklin has repeatedly called on fans to turn out for Commodore football games. They haven’t. There were thousands of empty seats for both the Kentucky and Wake Forest games as VU made its stretch drive. Vanderbilt Stadium seats just 40,000, so unfilled seats are sure to chap a coach with Franklin’s aspirations.
Franklin also might be thinking it’s time to jump while the getting’s good. Vanderbilt has beaten just two FBS squads with winning records over the last two years. At some point, even at Vandy, fans will want more. Ask Dan Mullen about feasting on cupcakes for too long.
Vandy AD David Williams needs to pull out all the stops to keep Franklin and you can be sure that he will. But if USC offers, it’s hard to imagine Franklin not accepting.
However, oother issue at play is the rape trial involving four ex-VU footballers. Defense attorneys have requested copies of the text messages sent back-and-forth between the players involved and Vandy’s coaches during the attempted cover-up. Haden will have to discuss that matter with Franklin on the uber-slim chance that Vandy’s head coach in any way aided his players in trying to hide the deed. That’s extremely doubtful, mind you, but after the Penn State scandal, it wouldn’t be prudent for an AD to hire a coach without asking about such an ugly episode.
USC is expected to name a coach in the next three weeks.